Patrick Regan has kindly shared the material from his George Heath site with readers of the Victorian Web, who may wish to consult the original.

September o'er, the memoral hills had spread
Their fan-like wings, and the wide expanse
Smiled in luxury and opulence
Of wide abundance, and undiminished charms. —
A full-flushed matron in the prime of life,
With will unbroken, and serene of brow,
With spirit light, and flippant as a maid's,
With now and then a mood of soberness,
As dreaming of the future and the past.
The tinge of Autumn had not mellowed yet;
The vision of the landscape, and red fruit
Still hung amid the clustering foliage;
The fields along the slopes are wreathed with corn;
The rivulets were shadow-haunted still;
The sunset, like a holy Holocaust,
By myriad Nature offered to its God,
With hands uplifted, and adoring eyes
'Neath ocean brows of lofty lustrous calm,
Burned on the unhewn altar of the west,
And peer above huge coils of flossy clouds
Irradiate, with the all-pervading flame,
Like coloured wreaths of incense curled on haze.
The wrinkled hills, coeval with the sun,
The ocean and the stars, serene as when
Primeval forests sobbed around them, shone
Intensely bright, transfigured in the glory.
Long rafts of level lights stretched wide and far
From height to height along the Penine hills;
The valleys lay beneath them in a glow
Of softer radiance, and above the sky
Dozed in a calm of cherub slumberings;
A little stir of humourous voiceless wind,
Enough to set the brooks a-tittering,
Involved the hills in trembling courtesings,
And stately rows of wigged and powdered trees,
And multiplied the thousand ripples on
The aftermath, and pounced with gay caress
On daises white, and shy-coquette of flowers
That, giggling, lowered and dipped their pretty heads,
As country maids when rifled of a kiss.
Beside a cottage roofed with homely thatch,
Beneath a canopy of sycamores; —
A lordly row, that hung their shadow o'er
Across a patch, where, in the dawn of Spring,
A fairy family of snow-drops grew —
A young man sat upon a mossy stone,
Worn were his shoes and thread-bare were his robes;
His puny limbs were thin and delicate;
Upon the silence of his quiet brow
A shadow hung, and 'neath the widening eyes
The dark insignia of the sorrow-hand,
That never comes but leaves a mournful trace
Which no one may mistake, were charactered,
Around the chastened lips, a sensitive
Quick tremour ran, and 'neath the seedy vest
A hungry heart beat with a quickened pace;
But triumph on the brow sat sunning now.
Tho' tears were in the eyes — the thirsty eyes —
That dwell upon the glory of the sunset,
And thitherward the hands were tightly clasp'd;
Within the soul a calm exultant swell —
The consciousness of kinship with the grand,
The lofty, the sublime of earth and heaven;
The spirit glorying o'er the power, the grasp
Of mind to feel and to appreciate
The glorious amid the beautiful of God.
And tears within the eyes — the shadow mist
That ever haunts the Summer bright of earth,
The weary droppings of despair o'er all
The futile struggles to expand the thoughts
That pant for utterance; the impulses,
The mysteries of all we see and feel,
But never, never, never may express.
Anon the sun blaze sunk away and died,
And while the gloaming faded on the hills,
A change came o'er the form that sat amid
The shading of the sycamore. The mind
Came back from wandering in the nature world,
And preyed upon itself; the yearning eyes
Turned from the outer to the inner world;
The tinkling sound of clogged and busy feet;
The clink of pans and pails, commingled with
The turning of a churn within the cot;
The gabble of the fowls, while fluttering
Away to roost; the herd-boy's shout; the sound
Of lowing kine, returning udder-eased
With empty duds, to dance the fields again.
The distant rumble of the homeward wain,
And all the hundred sounds of country life,
Rose with a chastened harmony upon
The lazy air, and played upon the ear,
And lightly touched his senses, but awoke
No perturbation, check, or dissonance
Within the mind: they were so usual:
And it, accustomed to their atmosphere,
Had grown impregnable: they had stripped off
Their individuality, and become
An element of silence; or more like
A soft accompaniment unto a song.
There while the glory sank and died; he dreamed: —
"A laden packman on the road at night
Pauses upon the summit of a hill,
And drops his load, and seats himself thereon,
And doffs his hat, and wipes his streaming brow,
And gazes back far down the dusty road: —
Afar the city nestles in the vale;
The flashing lights are moving everywhere,
And double rows of lamps, like tiny stars,
Run blinking here and there; and dreamily
The vision traces, long and listening,
The avenue of lights through which he came.
And nearer still, the dusky solemn trees
And blocks of cottages that rise
Dimseen, and mark the nearer torturous road —
And to his ear comes floating mellowly,
The mazy hum of many broken sounds
From the far city, inarticulate;
No sounds defined — mixed — softened down
Into an indistinguishable, low
Dull monotone." I, like that traveller,
Pause on the rugged way, beneath the night,
And lower my load, and panting, gaze far back
And see the visions that I had before,
And mark them dusked and dimly; as appear
Far distant objects in a morning fog;
And hear soft shreds of sounds, all twin'd among,
But soft and beautiful, as some low strain
Waked from an organ in the twilight time
By fingers giving scope to spirit dreams
Within some vast, dimed, caverned emptyness
Whose every cavity gives back its voice.
How like a floating picture in a dream
That little cottage, where my memory
First caught a weak impression, seems. The low
Long sunset light lies on it like a crown.
The cottage nest, whose low and broad'ning eaves
A man might almost reach with stretching up,
With battered chimney pot obliquely perched
Upon the gable, and a tutored plum
Stretching above the roof for higher hold;
The doorway and the tiny avenue
O'er arched with tangled lobs of damson trees;
The home-made patch; the long and narrow lane;
The gossiping streamlet straggling by its side;
The variegated holly in the corner
Of the wee garden plot, where oft we lay,
Perdu, or played at cows with coloured shreds —
The flower-strewn, heart-shaped croft that lay below
Beneath the shadows of tremendous trees;
The miry ditch behind, upon whose bank
The snowdrops come and then the primroses;
The old gray Sunday-school, where the kind hand
Of him whose goodness through the many years
Has been my blessing, first conducted me.
These, with a thousand other features, rise
Before me, vaguely glimmering in the far
Dim mellowed mistiness.

                  Then comes the change.
The scenes rise up distinctly, nearer, fixed
In strange rays of light: a long, tall, gaunt,
And barefaced cottage, whitewashed outwardly,
A thin stark yew shoots up the front;
Besides the door within the palisades
Behind, a nook of garden, nestling warm
Within a strong, high range of wall, or topped
With lolling rhododendrons, lilacs grey,
And long, lean slangs of ponds, o'ershadowed with
Dark clumps of hollies, running two above
And one below, besides an old bent road,
And everywhere are undulating slopes,
And belts of coppices, and meadow slips,
And pleasant lanes, and little serpent paths,
And humps of hills with face full of change —
These form a dingle, fixed for a time
Within my vision, changing constantly,
In light and hue, but featured still the same
While the wild panorama of the years —
The season's bannered dance; the stately face
Of queenly day; the night's stupendous march,
Sublime with nature's wonder-painting dews,
And hoary frosts and snows, and biting storms:
The rush and roar of winds; the tempest's surge;
The many shaped and many lustred clouds;
The thunder's awful talking, and the glimpse
Of lightnings issuing in forked shafts
From the black eaves of clouds; the calms,
The hushings, wastings, and the whisperings;
The glamours of great sunsets, and the wide
Unequalled splendours of the dawn. The awe
And erieness of spirit haunted twilight;
The floods of sunlight on the leys and lawns;
The marvellous night-shade weirdly alloyment;
With breathings of the many-languaged stars,
And all the manifold sublimity
Of the wide universe, grew on my soul.
A scene of wonderment and awfulness,
That filled my thought with silentness before
The unfathomable majesty, and wide
And vast stupendousness of visible things,
A feeling, or a reverence, or an awe
Dropped on my spirit, and my lips were dumb,
I wandered underneath all moods of skies,
And haunted nature in her every phrase,
And stood beneath the doming of the night
When o'er the orient the queen of heaven
Lay calm amid a sea of waveless film,
And all the vast still roof of blue, the white
Unnumbered multitude of panting stars
Intensely throbbed; while mute around the earth
Lay slumbering, and trouble, pain and toil,
Grown dumb, bent o'er their wounds and died.
And up the vales the mists rose spectrally,
And on the hills the moon's magnificence
In webs of frosted silver, scattered lay.
I flung myself upon the earth and kissed
The hoary dews, and turned my face above
And watched the meteors gliding to and fro
And marked the shooting stars slip from their hold,
And glide with sheeny tails athwart the abyss,
And suddenly fade out and disappear.
And there I lay, and shuddering, deemed that these
Were worn out worlds whose sands of time had run,
Whom God had summoned to the judgment bar.
Unutterable thoughts rose on my soul.

The above terminates the poem to which the author has given the name of  "Invalid Poet." The short life of affliction of George Heath, did not allow him to complete the undertaking, and consequently, like several of his other poems, it unfortunately remains a fragment. Amongst his manuscripts, however, are found lengthy passages which were evidently intended for the "Invalid Poet," with intervening suggestions for further poetic manipulation. These passages, in the order in which they appear, afford a good conception of what the poem if it had been finished, was designed to be, and as they comprise some of the finest thoughts he has anywhere penned, and indicate the opening of a fresh and much richer poetic vein, it would be doing an injustice alike to his memory and the public to withhold them from publication.


Victorian Web George Heath Contents


Last modified 4 September 2002